Dear Minister Donaldson,
I was pleased to hear about, and thankful for the influx of funds in the last budget for the Conservation Officers Service. These men and women are very dedicated to wildlife management and work very hard to protect our wildlife resources daily. In Golden, where I live there are only two officers to enforce the law. This is a massive area to patrol and nearly impossible to do an adequate job with the limited funds and resources they have. I’m sure our two officers were greatly relieved to hear that this year’s budget would be allocating more funds. As a hunter, angler, and outdoorsman, I am happy to know that our natural resource will have a little more help.
Having said that, I still feel there is a lot of work to be done by your government to bring our provinces budget for wildlife management up to some standard that we might see some positive effects on the resource. Funds are sorely lacking on all fronts when it comes to B.C.’s wildlife resources. There is barely enough funds to get biologists in the field doing research let alone take action on their research findings.
As we speak, ungulate population are on a steady decline across the province. This is due to many factors.
It has been said that wolf, and in some regions, cougar populations are very strong. This is having a great impact not only on the weak and the old, but also the prime breeding aged ungulates. Mule deer, elk, moose, mountain caribou, and mountain sheep are suffering tremendously because of them. This situation will only get worse now that the grizzly bear hunt came to an end late last year. Consideration must be taken into managing these large predator populations before the above mention ungulates fall to crisis levels. We can not manage some species while others go unmanaged. There needs to be a balance. To let nature take its course would be devastating to ungulate population as wolves decimate one species after another until all ungulates are put to the brink. At this point when the wolves have eliminated almost all prey species things will go bad for the wolves themselves. Disease and starvation in the wolf packs will be the result until their numbers finally drop as well. This could take generations for wildlife populations to stabilize. We need to take a solid step forward on this very uncomfortable topic of managing wolf population. Turning a blind eye on this situation is not going to make it go away.
Habitat for ungulates in the province continues to be degraded daily. With segmentation of the landscape from roads due to resource extraction and highways, wildlife find it uncomfortable to live with constant pressures that result from living near these roads. Mortality from wildlife/vehicular collision is only getting worse. With recent upgrades to our highways traffic is only moving faster and more vehicles are on our highway making the situation worse. The resource roads in the backcountry create too easy of access for predators and backcountry users to ungulates. Some of these roads need to be removed to restrict some of this access. Careful consideration for wildlife needs to be taken in the planning stages of highway improvements throughout the province to minimize the negative impact on all wildlife species. Resource roads should be deactivated once they are no longer needed. There are far too many roads in the backcountry in this province.
Habitat encroachment from human settlement and industry on prime winter range for ungulates is happening across the province at an alarming rate. This habitat can not be replaced and is crucial for the survival of ungulates. More careful consideration for wildlife should be given before development for residential subdivisions, commercial and industrial tenures are permitted.
The threat of disease is ever present in our ungulate population. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease which is deadly for Cervids (antlered ungulates) is steadily sweeping across the continent from the south and east. There hasn’t been a reported case of CWD in B.C. yet, but it is only a matter of time unless measures are taken to prevent it. Mycoplasma Ovipneumonie (movi, for short) is a respiratory infection that causes disease in wild sheep is an ever-present threat to B.C.’s Bighorn Sheep in the south of the province and has been reported for the first time in the state Alaska in the Thinhorn sheep population. This news does not bode well for B.C.’s Stone and Dall sheep populations in the north as this disease can wipe out entire herds of sheep. Again, it is only a matter of time before this is a serious threat that we will be dealing with if action is not taken to prevent it. What is this government doing to prepare for the inevitable?
This letter is not meant to be all doom and gloom, though. There are some outstanding conservation organizations that are doing the lion’s share of the work out there. British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF), Wild sheep society of B.C. (WSSBC), Backcountry Hunters and Anglers of BC (BHA of B.C.), Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) to name a few. These organizations can’t do it alone. Nor, should they have to. They need the help of government.
The good news is there are excellent wildlife funding models just south of the boarder that we can use as a frame work to build one for B.C. The northwestern states each have budgets of well over $100 million annually to wildlife management. This make B.C.’s paltry sum $34 million seem pathetic and frankly is embarrassing. If we start by dedicating all revenues from hunting licensing and tags instead of only a portion it would be a step in the right direction. This seems like a logical thing to do since those funds would not be raised if it weren’t for our wildlife resources. The next step would be to enlist a three to five per cent excise tax on all outdoor equipment that would be put towards wildlife conservation and wildlife conservation only. Again, this is another way that outdoors people can fund the resource themselves.
British Columbia needs to make our wildlife resource a priority. We need to start making the right decisions and move forward on proper funding and put the money in the hands of the right people to make a positive change to a dismal situation.
Chad A. Parent, vice president
Golden District Rod & Gun Club